The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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May 5, 2014

Wildfire continues to burn in Woodward County

ENID, Okla. — Firefighters were battling a wildfire in Woodward County on Monday that already had sent some firefighters to the hospital, burned several out-buildings and shut down U.S. 412.

The fire began a mile south of U.S. 412, between Roads 219 and 220, near Quinlan — about 21 miles east of Woodward — on Sunday afternoon, said Woodward Assistant Fire Chief Todd Finley.

U.S. 412 was reopened late Sunday night, Finley said.

The fire had burned nine miles north in some areas and was up to three miles wide in some areas by Monday afternoon.

“We’re hoping the majority of (the fire) is going to be out tonight,” Finley said late Monday afternoon. “There’s a lot of this fire that’s going to continue to burn for probably the next week or so.”

While he did not have exact numbers, Finley said there had been “a few” firefighters who suffered from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, but all were treated and released.

“We’ve had several out-structures (burned), but we don’t have a complete count at this time. As of right now, no homes have been burned, that we know of,” he said.

The area is sparsely populated, with approximately 20 to 30 residences.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate with protecting those exposures,” Finley said.

On Monday afternoon, firefighters were working to contain the fire ahead of 20 to 30 mph winds expected today and Wednesday, he said.

Firefighters had started back-burning in some areas.

“Ellis County is real qualified in this, and we wouldn’t even attempt it if they weren’t here,” Finley said. “We’ve got what they call a wet line, and it’s basically a bunch of brush pumpers that follow this fire line through and make sure it doesn’t jump the fire line, and then you start at the fire line and burn it toward the fire. And it just gets rid of all the burnable materials before it gets to you.

“It is a useful tool if you know what you’re doing.”

Strike teams — units made up of vehicles and firefighters from various counties — were requested and a number of teams, including Ellis, Beaver, Custer, Major, Garfield, Roger Mills and Woods counties, had assisted.

Finley said the fire was “huge” Monday.

The fire was so large geographically it had been divided into two commands, he said. Mooreland Fire Department was in control of the south command, and Woodward Fire Department was in control of the north command.

“The highway patrol is using a plane to spot the fires for us, from the air, and that’s been a great help to us,” Finley said.

Once most of the fire is extinguished, he said fire officials will do a flyover with Oklahoma Highway Patrol and assess of how many acres have burned.

“Our biggest concerns, at this point, are we’re in a drought year and it’s easy to equate a business fire with a business, and a lot of people don’t understand when a farmer loses 500 acres of grassland, he’s lost a big chunk of his business,” Finley said. “Our houses are a priority, and life safety, but we do try to conserve as much property as possible.”

Quinlan Methodist Church was being used as a command center, Finley said.

“The town of Quinlan was not affected, but the fire came pretty close to town,” he said.

Fire officials still were working Monday to determine the cause of the fire, Finley said.

Firefighters also were battling a large blaze in Dewey County, near Seiling. U.S. 270 was closed for a time from Seiling south to Oklahoma 51.

Mike Honigsberg, certified director of Enid and Garfield County Emergency Management, said there were a number of fires in Garfield County on Sunday.

The fire incidents included a burned barn in the 400 block of East Robertson Road, hay bale fires east of Kremlin and northwest of Hillsdale and a grass fire north of Kremlin.

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